Crime & Justice

Mexican mothers, divers seek missing loved ones in Sea of Cortez

By Daniel Sanchez

Guaymas, Mexico, Sep 20 (EFE).- The search for disappeared crime victims in Mexico has moved to the floor of the Sea of Cortez, otherwise known as the Gulf of California, parts of which have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Now, Mexican navy divers and mothers from the state of Sonora whose sons have gone missing are going deep under the waves and finding hundreds of bodies that assassins have thrown into the ocean.

The search is taking place in the ports of Empalme and Guaymas, one of the most important on Mexico’s Pacific coast, where the Guerreras Buscadoras (Search Warriors) group – made up of mothers, daughters, grandmothers, mothers-in-law and spouses of the victims – has a list of more than 500 names thanks to clues provided by the killers themselves.

“We take care of our beaches and they’re something very nice, and for this to be happening we’re dismayed as groups and as relatives of the missing. We don’t understand why they’re throwing them into the sea,” the head of Guerreras Buscadoras, Synthya Maritza Gutierrez Medina, told EFE.

“We’re issuing the call for them to leave (the bodies) in a place where we can find them because they’ve put them into containers, and they’ve also left them exposed on the beach, or they’ve dumped them on the shore and that’s how we’re finding these people,” she said.

For four-and-a-half years she has been looking for her son, Gustavo Angel Godinez, who disappeared on June 30, 2017.

The first time they investigated the sea bottom they found three containers with the bodies of four men and a woman. They were able to identify the remains and return them to their families.

In recent months, the group has received anonymous tips from the criminal groups in the region telling them some of the spots where they’d dumped their victims, mainly in the areas known as Paraje Viejo, Bahia Catalinas and La Salada, in the port of Guaymas.

“We knock on the doors of the National Missing Persons Commission, also at the Navy Secretariat of Mexico for the support of divers and the boat, and we also have support of the State Search Commission, which is supporting us right now with an aquatic drone,” Gutierrez Medina said.

The undersea searches were made possible with the help of eight members of the Mexican navy and a Defender class marine rescue vessel crewed by two pilots, two security personnel and four divers from the Maritime Search, Rescue and Monitoring Naval Station.

“I’m very grateful and don’t know how to repay them for their help. They’re not relatives, but they’re supporting us as if we were all one family. They brought an aquatic drone from the National Search Commission that can reach deep (in the ocean) where we never could have gone,” said Maria del Rosario Gutierrez Urias, a member of the group.

Searching the Sea of Cortez is emblematic of the profound crisis involving disappeared people in Mexico, where last May the 100,000 mark was exceeded of people who have gone missing since 1964, when the official list began being compiled.

Currently, there are almost 106,000 names on the list.

Maria del Rosario also went into the water herself to look for her son Jesus Gabriel Lopez Gutierrez, who disappeared on April 4, 2021. The fisherman, as his last wish, had asked relatives to scatter his ashes in the ocean because “he loved the sea, his life was the sea.”

“He had been working on a shark fishing boat for several years. He traveled along the Sea of Cortez coast and the Gulf of California. He always told me that he would prefer to remain at sea, it was his source of livelihood, it allowed him to support his daughter. Today, his little girl is six,” the woman said.

Now, however, she said she doubts that she will be able to carry out his final wish “Because I’ve been fighting for a year and four months where what I yearn for most is to find him to be able to have him back at home,” she said.

Guerreras Buscadoras said that the Sea of Cortez has now become a clandestine mass grave.

“It’s a tourist spot and, sure, our beaches are beautiful, but unfortunately via anonymous messages we’ve received tips that they’re throwing our relatives into the sea with buckets of cement on their legs, (and) others cut up inside 200-liter containers. It’s very harsh, but that’s the reality,” the activist said.

From 2017 to the present, the group has found more than 262 bodies in hidden graves and other spots in the Guaymas and Empalme region, in southern Sonora.

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